Prior to the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the United States Soccer Federation fulfilled its promise to FIFA by aiding in the foundation of a new professional league. On June 15, 1994, Major League Soccer selected Washington, D.C. out of twenty-two applicants to host one of the first seven teams, with three more added before the league’s launch.
On April 6, 1996, D.C. United played in the league’s inaugural match against the San Jose Clash in Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California. In the league’s early years, D.C. was the most successful of all the teams in MLS. In their first year, coach Bruce Arena led the team to the first “double” in modern U.S. soccer history by beating the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first MLS Cup and the Rochester Raging Rhinos of the USL First Division in the 1996 U.S. Open Cup. D.C. repeated its MLS Cup victory in 1997 against the Colorado Rapids, in front of a home crowd at RFK Stadium.
MLS Cup 1996 was the inaugural edition of the MLS Cup, the championship match of Major League Soccer (MLS), the top-level soccer league of the United States. Hosted at Foxboro Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on October 20, 1996, it was contested by D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy to decide the champion of the 1996 season.
Both finalists finished in the top two spots of their respective conferences, with D.C. placing second in the East and Los Angeles atop the West. The two teams also had identical win-loss records in the first two rounds of the playoffs, losing the opening match of the Conference Semifinals and winning the remaining four matches of both rounds. The final match was played in heavy rain due to the proximity of Hurricane Lili, which also inundated the field. The MLS Cup had an attendance of 34,643 spectators, falling short of the 42,000 people who paid for tickets and included a large contingent of traveling D.C. supporters.
The match ended in a 3–2 victory for D.C. United, with a golden goal scored by Eddie Pope in overtime that followed a second-half comeback for the team. Los Angeles had taken a 2–0 lead in the 56th minute on goals by Eduardo Hurtado and Chris Armas but conceded two goals to D.C. in the second half to force overtime. Marco Etcheverry assisted both goals, which began as free kicks that were headed into the goal by substitutes Tony Sanneh and Shawn Medved. Etcheverry went on to take the corner kick that led to Pope’s goal and was named the man of the match.
MLS Cup 1997 was the second edition of the MLS Cup, the post-season championship match of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States. It was played on October 26, 1997, between defending champion and hosts D.C. United and the Colorado Rapids to determine the champion of the 1997 season. The match was played in front of 57,431 spectators at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C.
During a rainstorm that mirrored the previous final, D.C. repeated as MLS Cup champions, winning the match 2–1 on goals by Jaime Moreno in the 37th minute and Tony Sanneh in the 68th minute. Substitute Adrián Paz scored a consolation goal for Colorado in the 75th minute, but the team was unable to draw level. 1997 final was the first MLS Cup to be decided in regular time and the first to be won by the host team. To date, this is the first and only championship game held in D.C. to be won by a D.C.-based professional team. The crowd of 57,431 was the second-largest soccer audience in the history of RFK Stadium. It was also the MLS Cup to feature two brothers on the same roster, as Chris Henderson and Sean Henderson both started the match for Colorado.
As finalists, D.C. United and the Colorado Rapids both earned a berth to play in the 1998 CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.
MLS Cup 1999 was the fourth edition of the MLS Cup, the championship match of Major League Soccer (MLS), which decided the champion of the 1999 season. It took place on November 21, 1999, at Foxboro Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and was contested by D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy in a rematch of the inaugural final played at the same venue in 1996.
D.C. United defeated Los Angeles 2–0 with goals from Ben Olsen and Jaime Moreno during the first half. D.C. United captured their third MLS Cup victory in the first four years of Major League Soccer’s existence and second victory against the Galaxy in an MLS Cup. American referee Tim Weyland was selected to officiate the match. Christina Aguilera performed at the halftime show.
MLS Cup 2004 was the ninth edition of the MLS Cup, the championship match of Major League Soccer (MLS), which took place on November 14, 2004, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California. It was contested between D.C. United and the Kansas City Wizards to decide the champion of the 2004 season. The two teams had qualified for the playoffs after seasons with mixed results that ended in top-two finishes in their respective conferences.
D.C. United won the match 3–2, scoring all three of its goals in a seven-minute span during the first half after the Wizards had taken an early lead. Alecko Eskandarian was named the match MVP for scoring the first two goals for D.C., one of which included an alleged handball that was uncalled. 2004 final featured the first red card in MLS Cup history, awarded for a handball which resulted in a penalty kick for Kansas City’s second goal. It was D.C. United’s fourth MLS Cup title and their first since 1999, and manager Peter Nowak became the first person to win the MLS Cup as a player and coach.
The club competes as a member of the Eastern Conference in Major League Soccer (MLS), the top level of professional American soccer. The franchise began play in 1996 as one of the ten charter clubs of the league. The club was one of the most successful clubs in the early years of MLS, winning eight of its thirteen titles between 1996 and 1998 under then head coach Bruce Arena. United holds the joint MLS record for most Supporters’ Shields, has four MLS Cups, and been crowned U.S. Open Cup champions three times. It is also the first club to win both the MLS Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup consecutively.
1996 – Present / Major League Soccer
1996 – Present / D.C. United
DC United – The team’s name was chosen as a reflection of the names of European clubs, such as Manchester United or Leeds United.
MLS Cups 4
2004, 1999, 1997, 1996
2018 – Present / Audi Field
1996 – 2017 / RFK Stadium
2019 – Present / Jason Levien and Steven Kaplan
2018 / Patrick Soon-Shiong, Jason Levien and Steven Kaplan
2012 – 2018 / William Chang, Erick Thohir and Jason Levien
2006 – 2012 / William Chang (D.C. United Holdings)
2001 – 2006 / Anschutz Entertainment Group
1995 – 2000 / Washington Soccer, LP
*Blue is this team’s history